Etisalat to compete with Skype, Facebook as it launches Voice over LTE calling

Etisalat will compete with chat apps such as Skype, Facebook and Google Hangouts by offering a “high-definition” version of its voice and video calls.

The telecoms operator said it would use Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service, an evolution of existing voice services that improves the quality of voice and video calls by sending them over its 4G LTE data network instead of its traditional voice network.

The new service will operate like any ordinary call and will not require any special app to operate. However, a device that enables VoLTE calls will be needed.

Etisalat said that at the time of the launch, the service will be enabled by Samsung devices only, but will soon be made on other devices too.

“Although internet-based chat apps and messengers have gained popularity in recent years, voice calls continue to matter most when people want real-time, interactive and instantly gratifying connection with their families, friends or colleagues,” said Saleh Al Abdooli, the group chief executive at Etisalat.

Matthew Reed, the practice leader for Middle East and Africa at Ovum, a consultancy specialised in the global coverage of IT and telecommunications, said “for operators, the chief reason to introduce VoLTE is that it will allow them to transfer voice traffic from their older 2G and 3G networks and carry it instead over their 4G LTE networks, which are more efficient.”

“Additionally, VoLTE promises better-quality calls and operators such as AT& T in the US are offering new services such as video calling alongside VoLTE, and they are hoping that these features of VoLTE will help them to counter the appeal of alternative services from the likes of Google and Skype.”

Etisalat already offers video calling over its 3G network.

According to Ovum’s research, it is still early days for VoLTE. A small, but growing, number of devices supports VoLTE and commercial VoLTE services have been launched in only 30 countries so far.

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